The art of saying “Yes” first

Yesterday Mascha from Russia had a chance to attend a fundraising lecture and drinks with Andrey Konchalovsky

by Mascha from Russia

Yesterday Mascha from Russia had a chance to attend a fundraising lecture and drinks with Andrey Konchalovsky  at Pushkin House for the upcoming theatrical tour de force of  Checkov’s “Uncle Vanya” and “Three Sisters” running in the Wyndham theatre from 23rd April until 3rd May, directed by none other than the Man himself and made possible by Belka Productions.

Energetic, sunny and tanned ( so much so, that any mention of his very very respectable age becomes pointless) , looking completely relaxed and beaming with a generous smile Mr.Konchalovsky addressed an eager audience in perfect and well articulated English, if only with a slight American twang. He spoke well and long about a range of subjects so wide as the role of ancestry (including his renowned family) on his own development, his creative path, his socio- behavioural observations, a bit of politics (there is no getting away from this) and most importantly he spoke about theatre... and Chekhov.

“You cannot approach Chekhov plays with a concept or your answer”, in fact Mr. Konchalovsky is even more adamant – “If you think you have the answer, you are already lost”. For him, Chekhov is necessarily a search and a definitive intellectual challenge (perhaps the greatest for a director)  of articulating the questions and having the courage not to know the answers. It is a human experiment every time the curtains go up. But one thing that a director must do, in his opinion,  is to make sense, whether that makes the audience laugh or cry in the end – “you never actually know at the beginning”, says he. To reinforce the feeling of live experiments Mr.Konchalovsky, with a coy smile, says that in fact you should watch both plays in the same day, so that you see the same actors transform into different characters. A double bill in theatre if you will.

The Chekhov festival in London and particularly the tour of Mossovet theatre is definitely a shimmering event in the cultural calendar for all theatre loving inhabitants of Londinium, but it is particularly so for the Russians. In fact, Russian audiences have an avid guardianship of how they want their Chekhov to be staged. It is for sure nothing to do with the very words that are written (perhaps this is why majority of western productions miss the point), it is something in between the words. It is that empty white space between the lines, the distance between the dots and the commas. The irreversible, pre-determined drama in a moment of silence. Pause. Breathe. Let the future unfold itself. The very essence of life.

Russian audiences, who in Konchalovsky’s eyes are wonderfully backwards and stuck in the 19th century, yearn for the eternal Сверхзадача (the pathetic “ most important task”,  Google tells me, struggling to appreciate what exactly I am trying to say here ) and here the director’s  reverence and guardianship of the mystery of Chekhov rang true for a lot of people last night.

What the lecture revealed in a very human way is that Mr.Konchalovsky is a great and fearless experimentor. “I always say “Yes” first, and then i think. So, “Yes”” - his reply to the spontaneous proposal to direct one of Ibsen’s plays in London. What a great challenge that would be.

Let the adventure begin (perhaps at this stage with an easy step of booking the tickets that are surely to sell out fast)!


 Mascha from Russia